Silliman Crest Sojourn, Sequoia National Park, California
- Enjoy short days of relatively easy cross-country travel and long afternoons basking in lakes
- Experience springtime in the high country, with meadows of early season wildflowers and shallow tarns swarming with tadpoles
- Enjoy great food, not too many mosquitoes, and warm lakes!
- Highly experienced long-time volunteer leaders
- Diverse, delicious, and easily prepared meals
- Carefully designed route and all permits
|Dates||Jul 17–24, 2014|
|Difficulty||3 (out of 5)|
Follow the Kaweah, the “River of the Calling Raven,” upstream from Visalia and Three Rivers. Eschew the lower confluences and ascend the walls of the marvelous gorge of the Marble Fork to the vast granitic Tablelands at the Marble’s headwaters, and behold the Silliman Crest. Actually fairly humble by Sierra standards, this 10,000-foot ridge stretches west from the Great Western Divide and parts the waters of the Kaweah from those of the Roaring River—also known as the South Fork of the Kings. The resplendent reaches of the Lodgepole region of Sequoia Park offer easy access to the surrounding high country, as well as less-strenuous cross-country travel through classic Sierra alpine scenery.
Here in the westward protruding belly of the park, we are surrounded by wilderness, more than 768,000 square miles of wilderness in Sequoia-Kings Canyon and another nine square miles in the tiny Jennie Lakes Wilderness of the Sequoia National Forest. There is no larger contiguous wilderness area in the United States outside of Alaska. In addition to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the federal Wilderness Act of 1964, and the 30th anniversary of the California Wilderness Act of 1984—under which both the Jennie Lakes and the Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wildernesses were formed—our outing in particular can also celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1864 Whitney Survey, our young state’s first effort to map the terra incognita of the Sierra.
Those legendary figures—Brewer, Hoffman, King, Gardner and Cotter—started their famous 1864 exploration and mapping expedition right here at the Silliman Crest. Mt. Silliman (named for Brewer’s chemistry professor at Yale) was the first of the dozens of peaks they would eventually climb and name that summer. From Silliman, they dropped down into the Roaring River and turned north to climb Mt. Brewer. We will content ourselves with a more thorough enjoyment of this small, scenic segment of Sierra highland.
Day 1: We’ll meet in the mid-afternoon at the Dorst Creek Campground.
Day 2: After first shuttling some of our cars to Wolverton, we start our trip at the Stony Creek trailhead (6,500 feet). We shortly enter the Jenny Lakes Wilderness and climb to Jenny Lake (9,200 feet) in about seven miles. Jenny Lake itself is a pretty place and a popular weekend destination.
Day 3: We hike from Jennie Lake (9,200 feet) to Lost Lake (9,200 feet)—about six miles altogether, half of it cross-country. There is a lot of up and down despite the starting and ending lakes being at the same elevation. We leave Sequoia National Forest and enter Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park.
Day 4: We hike cross-country about four miles from Lost Lake (9,200 feet) to Crescent Lake (9,700 feet). Beville, Ranger, Lost and Seville lakes line the backside of the Silliman Crest in a ring around the eroding towers of Twin Peaks. Ball Dome sticks out of the forest just a mile away. Crescent Lake sits at the very top of the south fork of Sugarloaf Creek, one of the very hard-to-reach, north-flowing tributaries of the Roaring River.
Day 5: We leave Crescent Lake (9,700 feet) and hike about four miles cross-country to Table Meadow (10,600 feet). This looks like a really fun day as we find our own way over the Kings-Kaweah Divide and through the Tablelands, a geographically anomalous high plateau of small lakes, tiny meadows, and polished granite.
Day 6: We’ll layover in the Tablelands (10,600 feet). There are zero miles of backpacking, but lots of tarn swimming options, and the class two summit of Big Bird Peak is within range.
Day 7: Another three miles of cross-country brings us to the uplands above Pear Lake (9,500 feet).
Day 8: We’ll hike to the Wolverton roadhead (7,200 feet) via the Lakes Trail, about six miles. This is a well-graded and spectacular trail to a very gorgeous lake, and it is very popular. A highlight along the route is the section of trail blasted into the rock of The Watchtower, a 2,000-foot cliff towering over Tokopah Falls. The trail visits three other small enchanting lakes—Heather, Emerald and Aster—descending from Pear. We should be out by noon, or shortly thereafter.
We will meet at Dorst Creek Campground in Sequoia National Park on Thursday, July 17. The campground is located on the General’s Highway near Lodgepole. Official meeting time is usually mid-afternoon. We strongly recommend planning an extra day before the start of the trip to acclimatize to the altitude and to explore the area. There is lots of camping in the area, as well as more luxurious accommodations in the nearby Wuksachi Village. You might visit the world’s largest living thing, the General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest, or hike to a lightly visited wilderness grove of Giant Sequoias, the Muir Grove, only a two-mile hike from Dorst Campground. Another alluring possibility would be the equally short hike up to the base of Tokapah Falls, or the relatively flat but magnificent Crescent Meadow Loop through the Giant Forest itself.
The most convenient airports to fly into and rent a car from are Fresno, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and the Los Angeles area airports. Plan on about five hours to drive to Dorst Campground from San Francisco, two hours from Fresno, and five hours from Los Angeles. A roster of trip members with accompanying travel plans will be sent ahead of time to arrange ride-sharing. Please have your ride to and from the trailhead arranged prior to leaving home. A departure bulletin will be sent out in June with detailed driving instructions and meeting place and time.
Accommodations and Food
The first trip meal is dinner on Thursday, July 17, at Dorst Creek Campground. The last meal is lunch on the final day, Thursday, July 24.
The Sierra Club will provide all meals and snacks. Vegetarians are welcome, but please let us know well in advance. Cooking and clean-up duties will be shared by all members of the group on a rotating basis. All of our food will be carried in bear-proof canisters. Please do not bring any extra food, such as snacks, as it will not fit in the stuffed-to-capacity canisters.
This trip difficulty is rated 3 and is intended for backpackers with at least a modicom of experience. You must have the ability to hike up to seven miles a day at high altitude, with a backpack weighing as much as 45 pounds. We may have to cross snowfields that linger far into the summer and there will be stream crossings. We will backpack a total of 30 miles for the trip, including 14 miles of cross-country travel plus optional day hikes on the layover day. Daily mileages range from three cross-country miles to seven trail miles. Most days will be moderate hiking, with five to six hours on the trail, including breaks, but some days could run longer if unforeseen difficulties arise. Our campsites will be between 9,200 and 10,600 feet. The highest point of the trip will be at 11,000 feet, where we cross the Kings-Kaweah Divide.
Participants must be in good physical condition and have previous backpacking experience. Hiking, running, and cycling are good training activities. Lack of adequate preparation not only affects your enjoyment of the trip, but reduces the enjoyment of other trip members as well. At least one recent overnight backpack is a must before participating in this outing. We are hoping for a diverse group of age and experience.
Leader approval is required. Please complete and return the questionnaire included in your confirmation packet to the trip leader.
The High Sierra is renowned for its excellent summer weather, however, extended storms can occur at any time of the year. Afternoon thunderstorms, with sudden cloudbursts of wind, rain, hail, and even snow are not uncommon. Be prepared for extremes: high temperatures during the day can exceed 80 degrees and fall into the low 20s at night.
Note that depending on snow pack in July, we could encounter high water at stream crossings and snowfields on passes. Be prepared to be flexible as the itinerary may change due to unforeseen conditions and circumstances.
Equipment and Clothing
A basic equipment list will be sent when you are accepted for the trip. Trip participants will need to furnish their own backpack and personal gear, including eating utensils. The club will provide food and commissary equipment, including pots, cooking utensils, stoves, and fuel. Each person should keep the weight of personal gear under 25 pounds so that, with the addition of approximately 14 to 18 pounds of commissary equipment and food, total pack weight should be no more than 40 pounds at the start of the trip.
Your pack should have room for commissary equipment, as well as your personal gear. Each participant’s commissary load will likely include one food canister, plus an additional non-food item such as a stove, fuel bottle, tarp, rope, pot set, etc. This is roughly equal to the size of a full grocery sack.
In July weather is usually mild, but storms are possible, so bring cold-weather clothing, raingear (rain jacket and rain pants), and a tent. Boots must be broken in before the trip, be waterproof, and have good Vibram soles. Your personal first-aid kit should include a roll of cloth-bound, two-inch athletic adhesive tape. When preparing your backpack, you might want to consider Thoreau's words: "A man is rich in proportion to what he can do without."
A comprehensive listing of equipment and our philosophy can be found at http://www.knapsack.org/basic_equipment.html.
Please plan on carrying either the four USGS topo maps or one of the larger area maps such as the Tom Harrison or US Forest Service map. The Tom Harrison is the lightest.
- U.S.G.S. 7.5-minute topographic maps: The “Muir Grove,” “Mount Silliman,” Lodgepole,” and “Triple Divide Peak” quads cover the trip.
- “Mount Whitney High Country Trail Map” Tom Harrison Maps (www.tomharrisonmaps.com) covers all of the trip. At REI & Amazon.
- John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia Kings Canyon Wilderness, US Forest Service (http://www.nationalforeststore.com/ ), and sometimes REI covers all of the trip.
- Laws, John M, The Laws Field Guide To The Sierra Nevada. An excellent field guide to plants, animals, and more.
- White, Mike, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks: Your Complete Hiking Guide. Wilderness Press. A good guide to trails.
- Storer, Tracy I., and Robert L. Usinger, The Sierra Nevada Natural History. Gives more details on specific plants and animals.
- Whitney, Stephen, A Sierra Club Naturalist's Guide to the Sierra Nevada. An excellent trip and/or pre-trip read to understand Sierra ecology.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward greater understanding, advocacy and participation in the goals of the Club.
We will be visiting the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park and Jennie Lakes Wilderness areas on the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Wilderness Act. Though this area is preserved, adjacent areas not in designated wilderness are still threatened by development, logging, and overgrazing. All of the Sierra Nevada is threatened by air pollution from the San Joaquin Valley below. The declining frog population of the Sierra Nevada will also be discussed by the leaders. For info go to http://www.mylfrog.info/ .
Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Forest.